Providing free healthcare, books, clothes, and shelter to those in need

The Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation awarded funding for Project READ, the Open Closet, Project Care Free Clinic, and GRACE House during their Annual Grants Cycle.

“We have more to tell you about the wonderful programs that the Community Foundation supported during our Annual Grant Cycle. I am overwhelmed by the generosity and compassion of the people in the Greater Itasca Area Community,” says Sarah Copeland, Director of Grants and Programs at the Community Foundation.

Copeland continues, “Look at the programs we talk about this week: Project Care Free Clinic, Project READ, Zion Open Closet and GRACE House. Some people in our community don’t have to worry about paying for medical insurance, and that’s great. However, everyone is aware that the cost of health care is an issue. Also, there are people in need of clothing and shelter in our community. Caring people come together as a community to make a difference for people who are without. The first story we feature is Project READ, supplying books for kids so families can read every day.”

Books for kids, so families can read every day!

Project READ is the only group in Itasca County who consistently gets books into the hands of kids, so families can read every day. They accomplish this by giving children books to keep and educating families on the benefits of reading every day. Families with access to books can read every day to their children from birth to beyond and help their children become successful lifelong readers.

Project READ provides children books to keep through:

  • The “Bright Red Bookshelf Project”: Bookshelves are located throughout Itasca county. Families are welcome to select a free children's book to keep.

  • The “Traveling Bright Red Bookshelf” at community events: Project READ hands out free children's books at community events around Itasca county.

  • Providing books for “Fathers/ Families Reading Every Day” events (FRED). Schools and groups around Itasca County host FRED events and hand out Project READ books.

This past year Project READ teamed up with the Boys & Girls Club of Grand Rapids and Itasca Community College-Class Act Program to hold a FRED event to encourage fathers and families to read to children. Project READ coordinated with sponsors and volunteers from the community to provide books for this event. Families participated in:

  • A meal and educational activities

  • Information on the value of reading every day

  • Free book table where children choose two new books from the “Traveling Bright Red Bookshelf”

“Project READ is a vital component of literacy in this community. It reaches households, through its great exposure at community events, that may not be served by ‘normal’ means. Sure, you can get books from the library… until your fines are too high. Yes, the school library is available…. until you forget a book. Building a personal library is a key component to reading success,” says Tracy Kampa, Children's Librarian, Grand Rapids Area Library, in a Project READ 2017 SWOT Analysis Survey Response.

Project READ is fully funded through donations and grants as well as annual book drives and sales. Grants made from the Community Foundation to Project READ during the recent Annual Grant Cycle were from the Peter Burich and Gloria Sella Burich Fund- $3,750; Greater Itasca Area Community Fund- $500; TJ Maroney/ Barzen Donor Advised Fund- $500; and Kosak Family Fund- $250.

PHOTO 1: (Right) Chippy the Chipmunk and Denise Rogers, Project READ

PHOTO 2: (Left) Chippy the Chipmunk and Denise Rogers, Project READ; Cathy Sayward, Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation

Providing free medical care and education in Grand Rapids

Over the last several years, the Project Care Free Clinic has evolved into a model organization for the northern part of Minnesota serving northern St. Louis and Itasca Counties. Project Care provides necessary medical care to include mental health services, lab and diagnostics, diabetic education, medication assistance, and advocacy services.

“Project Care is one of a kind in the area, to be more precise, in all of Northern Minnesota,” says Carrie Estey-Dix, Clinic Coordinator, Project Care Free Clinic. “We believe in assisting individuals and families in the process to be healthy and productive citizens in the community. Prevention, education and advocating for patients continues to be our priority.”

The clinic provides basic medical care to the patients that fall through the cracks, those that are working but do not have health insurance through their employer and make too much to qualify for state assistance. Patients that do not qualify for one reason or another are not turned away without an in-depth discussion about their needs and advocating services that are available to guide them in a direction to further assist them. People who utilize Project Care clinics are primarily low-income patients that are not eligible for medical assistance or MNSURE.

Project Care Free Clinic is located at 100 NW 3rd Street in Grand Rapids (across the street from the Herald Review) and open every Tuesday from 5:30 – 7:30 PM. Patients that do not qualify for one reason or another are not turned away without an in-depth discussion about their needs and advocating services that are available to guide them in a direction to further assist them.

Services are provided at no cost to the patient. Education and Prevention programs are offered to everyone in the community regardless of their insurance status or income. Statistically at least one adult in the household is employed.

Project Care Free Clinic was awarded a total of $,2500 during the recent Annual Grant Cycle: Edgar and Hannah Hetteen Fund- $1,500; Greater Itasca Area Community Fund- $500; TJ Maroney/ Barzen Donor Advised Fund- $500.

PHOTO: Chris Fulton, Executive Director, Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation presents $2,500 for the Grand Rapids Free Clinic to Pamela Dowell, Site Coordinator for Project Care.

A caring and compassionate place for those in need of clothing

Located at Zion Lutheran Church, the Zion Open Closet does just that. People across the Greater Itasca Area donate clothing to help people in need. According to Silvia Olson, along with several other volunteers, “We want to make sure that everyone who needs clothing has a caring and compassionate place to get the help they need.”

However, many personal items are either not donated, or not appropriate to donate. Olson’s request for a grant from the Community Foundation addresses the need to purchase new underwear and a few other items that are not donated.

“There is a high need in our community for more personal items such as socks and underwear. Many people don’t think about or realize that when they are donating clothing,” says Olson. “We very much appreciate the donated clothing and couldn’t help people in our community without it. But, I see the need for other items as well, and I believe that everyone should be treated with respect and dignity. If someone needs underwear or socks, I’d like to be able to provide new.”

Volunteers from Zion Lutheran Church manage and staff the Open Closet. “The amount of time and love that the volunteers put into the Open Closet is amazing,” says Brianna Spry, Program Administrator at the Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation.

If you are interested in visiting the Open Closet, Zion Lutheran Church is located on Pokegama Avenue across the street from Home Depot and Walmart, just south of the Judy Garland Museum.

Grants awarded to the Open Closet were from the Edgar and Hannah Hetteen Fund -$5,000 and TJ Maroney/ Barzen Donor Advised Fund - $250.

PHOTO: (L-R) Cathy Sayward, Administrative Assistant at the Grand Rapids Area Community Foundation presents Paula Ross, Silvia Olson, Sharron Lewis and Judy Dimich, all volunteers at Zion Open Closet, with two grants from the Annual Grant Cycle.

GRACE House provides shelter, homeless prevention and assistance to those in need

This program is designed to assist transients and homeless individuals and families in Itasca County who are experiencing financial crisis or homelessness.

The first part of the GRACE House mission is, "to provide safe, temporary shelter to the homeless" with the operative word being "temporary". In this case, “temporary” means no more than a 30-day stay where the GRACE House staff work with the clients to assist them with both housing and employment. Extremely important in this process are housing application fees, a bus voucher to get to an interview for housing or employment and assistance with Identification Cards.

Grants from the Community Foundation will be used to assist those in need with ID cards, housing application fees, gas cards, bus tickets, simple car repairs and motel/camping funds. Most of the funds are used to assist guests of GRACE House as well as those not able to stay at GRACE House due to not being a fit for the program or have a criminal record.

During the recent Annual Grant Cycle, GRACE House was awarded $,1300 from the Edgar and Hannah Hetteen Fund; $500 from the Greater Itasca Area Community Fund; $500 from the TJ Maroney/Barzen Donor Advised Fund; and $200 in an online Donation.

PHOTO: (L-R) Hugh Quinn, GRACE House Board Member; Mary Jo Gibbons, Community Foundation Community Impact Committee; Brianna Spry, Community Foundation Program Administrator; and Ron Oleheiser, Executive Director of GRACE House.

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350 NW 1st Ave, Suite E  | Grand Rapids, MN 55744  |  218-999-9100

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